A governing party official appeared to have scored a first-round win in the Dominican Republic’s presidential election, but supporters of his main opponent complained of vote-buying and other forms of fraud and said they would challenge the results.
Danilo Medina of the current president’s Dominican Liberation Party received just over 51 percent of Sunday’s vote with 83 percent of the ballots counted, according to the Caribblean country’s Electoral Commission. His main rival, former Dominican president Hipolito Mejia of the Dominican Revolutionary Party, had nearly 47 percent. The winner needed more than 50 percent to avoid a runoff.
Medina said he was confident he would win, but that the Electoral Commission would keep scrutinizing ballots through the night. He thanked a crowd of supporters and sent them home.
“We will celebrate in a big way tomorrow,” he said.
Mejia did not concede and questioned the results, as did others in his party. Luis Abinader, his vice presidential candidate, said the Dominican Revolutionary Party would present a report detailing irregularities yesterday.
“We are going to defend democracy,” Abinader said. “We are going to show the country what really has happened today.”
Mejia’s representative on the Electoral Commission accused the ruling party of fraud, saying the former president should have received many more votes than the results reflected.
“We all know what party the director of the Electoral Commission belongs to,” he said at a news conference.
The balloting appeared orderly in general, but there were widespread reports that backers of both parties were offering people payments of about US$15 to vote for their candidate or to turn over their voting cards and withhold their vote. Campaign officials denied the allegations.
Observers from the Organization of American States confirmed incidents of vote-buying, but not enough to taint the overall results of what was otherwise a “successful,” election, said the head of the mission, Tabare Vazquez, a former president of Uruguay.
The candidates were vying to succeed Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, who spent US$2.6 billion on such major infrastructure projects as a subway system, hospitals and roads to modernize a country that is the top tourist destination in the Caribbean, but remains largely poor. Fernandez was barred by the Constitution from running for a third consecutive term.
Many voters said that Medina, a 60-year-old economist and stalwart of the Dominican Liberation Party, was not a particularly exciting candidate, but said they were eager for stability in a country with a history of economic and political turmoil.
“I don’t want major change,” said Amauris Chang, a 59-year-old shop owner. “I want the country to grow and I want it to be peaceful, and I think that’s a common idea among people who are civilized.”
Six candidates were running for president, but Medina’s only real opponent was Mejia, who lost his bid for a second presidential term in 2004 because of a deep economic crisis sparked by the collapse of three banks.
Mejia and his Dominican Revolutionary Party have a devoted following. Supporters of the 71-year-old garrulous populist sought to portray some of the public works spending as wasteful and benefiting backers of the president, and said he was not to blame for the 2004 economic crisis.